While much of the baseball world has intently been fixated on two Japanese stars in free agency: Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, another Japanese hurler has entered the mix.
Per MLB insider Jon Heyman, the Red Sox are also interested in left-hander Shota Imanaga. Heyman did not immediately identify which other clubs were interested in the 30-year-old southpaw. Former Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez signed with the defending NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks overnight for 4 years and $80 million, taking a reunion off the table and leaving the Sox looking elsewhere for pitching help.
Red Sox News: Shota Imanaga Rumors Would Be Perfect Fit in Boston
Imanaga has spent the last eight seasons in Japan, accumulating a 60-54 record with 3.18 ERA and 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He is a two-time all-star and led the league in strikeouts last season. Imanaga started the 2023 World Baseball Classic championship game against the United States in March and collected the win in two innings of work. He pitched six innings across three appearances during the WBC, striking out seven and allowing two runs.
Imanaga is a classic crafty lefty with his fastball sitting in the low 90s, a plus splitter, along with a slider and curveball. Per Baseball America: "he mixes and matches well to keep opponents off-balance. He has above-average control and keeps everything around the plate. " The scouting report also projects Imanaga to serve as the 4 or 5 in a rotation, or potentially as a long reliever.
His pitching style has earned him the nickname "The Throwing Philosopher" in Japan. And for as much as we want a pitcher with great stuff, what fan isn't going to immediately fall in love with a guy that has such a cool nickname?
Imanaga's scouting report goes hand-in-hand with the approach pushed by new Red Sox pitching coach Andrew Bailey at his introductory press conference.
Bailey emphasized throwing strikes and limiting walks, something that he had immense success with as the pitching coach in San Francisco. Giants pitching allowed the fewest walks in the MLB last season.
MLB Trade Rumors ranked Imanaga as the 10th best free agent in this class, and projected his contract at 5 years and $85 million. As is the case with Yamamoto as well, whichever MLB club signs Imanaga will have to pay at least 20% of the contract's value to his Japanese club, the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.
In other Red Sox news: